Origin of the Friends
Extract from 10th Anniversary Edition Oct. 2003
Part 1 - by Mick Yarker
Bob Brown and I had recently completed work on the restoration of 7714, which is now in running order. Our original plan had been to begin work on another engine, and 813 had been an obvious choice. After doing very little work, we both agreed a second big restoration job taking perhaps 10 years was far too daunting a task to take on - bearing in mind the hobby is supposed to be fun and not some kind of trial.
Dave was well known to us having carried out work at Bewdley, as well as Kidderminster, so during a chat a trip to Kingscote on the Bluebell Railway in Sussex was suggested, by way of a day out.
The trip took place on 15th August 1993 with Dave, Bob and I travelling down in my old Lada. The Bluebell Railway was every bit as good as we expected; and then some. One aspect in particular made itself apparent. The railway was extending its operating length by buying sections of line and rebuilding them. The railway was at full stretch with this exciting project and could not afford to pay for detail work, such as restoring stations to their former glory. Only basic work could be carried out.
At Kingscote, the original station had been converted into a house and although basically complete, had been much altered for its new role. For example, the awning was still standing - just - as the previous owner had hacked out the supporting piers when converting the space underneath into a 'Billiard Room.'
The point is that a small group of people had got together to carry out the work that the main company could not justify doing from a financial point of view. They had arranged independent finance and what they had achieved was staggering.
This was an ideal template for Kidderminster on our line. The S.V.R Company had invested heavily in extending the line from Bewdley as well as constructing Kidderminster's superb station but had nothing in hand for detail work. (In fact unknown to us all the railway was sinking into debt with the old management in charge and Kidderminster Station itself was under threat with redevelopment at the end of our lease. We were only alerted to the crisis when the developer's surveyors turned up on site!)
Kidderminster is a long drive from Sussex despite some spirited driving in what is reputedly the world's slowest car. This gave Bob, Dave and I plenty of time to discuss how the Bluebell idea could be adapted for the Severn Valley at Kidderminster.
It was obvious that we should call a meeting of all interested parties and see how to raise funding from independent sources to existing projects. Of course we would have to be careful not to tread on other people's toes. There was already a group in action at Kidderminster under the able leadership of Malcolm Broadhurst, who were maintaining the station and carrying out a multitude of improvements, but with limited resources. Dave was already working at Kidderminster on several projects of his own.
We felt there was room for a second self financed group to carry out smallish capital projects, such as the entrance canopy etc. The rest, as they say is history. We are to do a celebratory 10th Anniversary run in the Lada or maybe in a minibus this time! Watch this space for a news report. (2003)
Part 2 - by Dave Redfern
Having returned from our inspiring day at Kingscote on the Bluebell Line, we decided to call a meeting in the Porter's Shed at Kidderminster. All of the staff on site who were part of the Kidderminster team were invited.
At the due time the staff arrived, ranging from shop volunteers and the maintenance team to the platform staff. I explained that although the Severn Valley had built the Kidderminster station building, ten years had passed without a sign of it being finished. The architect had planned for a canopy on the front of the station together with crestings on the towers to be part of the original building contract, these were omitted due to cost constraints.
We, therefore, proposed to generate our own funds and with our technical capability and fund raising ability we felt we could do these jobs. dditionally, we were aware that with our control and our own cash we could ensure that things were done properly. The proposal was that if you want to see this happen, don't rely on the company to do it, we must make it happen ourselves. We proposed that if people paid on a standing order with a minimum of £2 per month, but with no upper limit, we could begin. Additional sponsorship would also be pursued. We left the meeting feeling jubilant as a number of those present filled in a standing order form and the "Friends" were born.
Part 3 - by Keith Redfern
Design plans and methods for the first project - the canopy were completed and much time was spent looking at other gaps requiring work to improve Kidderminster's ambience. Spearhead fencing, gas lamps, barrows etc, jobs that could be accomplished between the main projects. Liaisons with Railtrack, Centro, Amey and Virgin all provided us with useful items, in some cases in exchange for restoration or maintenance to their areas of responsibility, i.e. benches at main line stations or the embankments / gardens / islands at Kidderminster on Railtrack property. Spin-off projects came about e.g. the Uffculme building on the parcels platform - we needed a decent workshop for the production of the crestings - so we built one. Everyone was tired of having wet feet so we paved the parcels platform. The bike shelter now protects barrows and bikes, the Henley building (now the on-train catering store) was a major job. It was completely refitted as was the lamp shed (now the paint store). Both these buildings were donated to us and now occupy pride of place at Kidderminster and while being original in appearance they provide very much needed new facilities.
Another example of our involvement was the no-cost removal of the goods shed steel and woodwork. The railway had been quoted £10,000 for this work however the contractor was persuaded to demolish and remove the unstable roof and leave sound woodwork for reuse in items such as G.W.R coach 3930 and the museum, all done for the sake of preservation not destruction. Many items have been provided by enthusiasts, companies and 'Joe Public' for use at Kidderminster and placed in our care. G.W.R maps, notice boards, clocks, G.P.O electric trucks, in fact the list of items seems endless and is being catalogued to ensure we know who to contact re items on loan. Two railway drays are owned by us and now after full restoration are available for use.
Our aim is to continually move forward in creating the right 'atmosphere' in conjunction with the management of the railway by using the skills from industry and commerce that our team possess from their paid employment as well as new skills learnt 'on the job'.
Additional help in any form is gratefully accepted.